DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 164 Sunday March 12, 2000 

DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 164 Sunday March 12, 2000 
Posted by FoM on March 12, 2000 at 11:01:10 PT
Time Magazine Exposes The Futility Of Ecstasy Ban 
Source: MapInc.
In a recent article, Time Magazine exposes that the US has encountered a striking upsurge in popularity of the rave drug ecstasy, despite its 15-year old worldwide ban instigated by the DEA in 1985. This provides yet another case study for the utter futility of the efforts to contain recreational drug use with prohibitionist measures. 
Please use this opportunity to point out to the editors and readers of Time Magazine the necessity to find less harmful approaches to addressing the drug problem.Here are some arguments that may serve as departure points for your letter to the editors:(1) Even though ecstasy was banned in the US in 1985 and in the consecutive year, under US influence, in most European countries, this did not curb the growth of the drug's popularity which peaked in Europe in the 1990s and now, with a delay of about ten years, in North America. This shows that drug usage patterns are largely independent of interdiction and law enforcement.(2) The article mentions that the drug marketing efforts of racketeers have helped popularize the drug. This suggests that criminalization is not just fruitless but actually counterproductive. There are many more indications for the ill effects of drug prohibition. For example, emergency room admissions associated with intoxications from GHB, a club drug also mentioned in the article, were never reported before the FDA banned its sale in 1991 but have skyrocketed since then. (3) The article mentions that the purity and potency of ecstasy pills vary widely and that the drug is often mixed with other ingredients. The potential harm to the drug user who cannot judge what is inside the pill is, again, the result of criminalization. (4) Ecstasy is almost as cheap and exactly as easy to produce as meth (the process is the same, only the precursor chemicals are harder to come by). If setting up a drug lab costs nearly nothing and every kitchen chemist can synthesize the drug, ever so many lab busts will not put a lid on the supply side. To cut the demand, on the other hand, police would have to purge every campus in the US of ravers, which is as scary and ludicrous as it is impossible.(5) The article mentions the scientific dispute about possible brain damage due to MDMA use and says that the ban issued by the DEA resulted from the initial findings. In fact, in 1985, the year of the ban, appeared the first report about the destruction of brain nerve terminals in rats exposed to ecstasy. In comparison, some anti-obesity drugs, such as Meridia and Redux, have been known from the early 1990s to effect similar kinds of brain cell alterations, but this never resulted in the revocation of these drugs (Redux was pulled from the market in 1997 only after reports of heart valve damage). Similarly, antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft are known to alter the function of the very same brain nerve terminals that are allegedly damaged by MDMA. A recent study by Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia found that the changes effected by these antidepressants are similar to those observed with MDMA. How can the eagerness to ban MDMA be justified in comparison with the lack of concern with regard to prescription drugs?Thanks for your effort and support. WRITE A LETTER TODAY: It's not what others do it's what YOU do: PLEASE SEND US A COPY OF YOUR LETTER OR TELL US WHAT YOU DID: (Letter, Phone, fax etc.)Please post a copy your letter or report your action to the sent letter list (sentlet if you are subscribed, or by E-mailing a copy directly to MGreer Your letter will then be forwarded to the list with so others can learn from your efforts and be motivated to follow suitThis is VERY IMPORTANT as it is the only way we have of gauging our impact and effectiveness.CONTACT INFO:Source: Time Magazine (US) Contact: letters Note: Always include your address and telephone number. US: It's All The RaveNewshawk: Tom O'Connell Pubdate: Mon, 13 Mar 2000 Source: Time Magazine (US) Copyright: 2000 Time Inc. Contact: letters Address: Time Magazine Letters Time & Life Bldg.Rockefeller Center, NYNY 10020Fax: (212) 522-8949 Website: Author: John Cloud Bookmarks: For ecstasy items For: rave items IT'S ALL THE RAVE:SUDDENLY PEOPLE ALL OVER THE country are talking about "ecstasy" as if it were something other than what an eight-year-old feels at Disney World. Occasionally the trickle from the fringe to the heartland turns into a slipstream, and that seems to have happened with the heart-pulsing, mildly psychedelic drug called ecstasy. To get a sense of just how far and fast "e" has moved into American communities in the past year or so, talk to Mark Bradford, a junior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "I came to college in the fall of '97," says Bradford, 21, "and I didn't even know the word had another meaning." It's not shocking that young Mark moved from suburban St. Louis to find drugs on a big campus. But it's a little surprising where he encountered ecstasy, a drug first used in the 1970s by a small group of avant-garde psychotherapists -- at frat houses. As president of the university's Interfraternity Council, Bradford has found himself in meetings with police to discuss frat boys' growing appetite for a drug today usually associated with teen ravers, gay men and what's left of America's aging hippies, "It's everywhere now," says Bradford, who doesn't touch the stuff. Law enforcers are coming across gigantic stashes of ecstasy in places where it was rarely seen. E comes as tablets or capsules, and since December, Ohio authorities have seized 25,000 pills in Columbus and 200 more in rural Lorain County. In January some 30 people were arrested in New Orleans for distributing the drug. Two weeks ago in Providence, R.I., a seven-month investigation into ecstasy dealing ended with the arrest of 23. In bigger cities, the trade has exploded. In December the U.S. Customs Service discovered 100 lbs. of ecstasy shipped from France to the FedEx headquarters in Memphis. The agents followed the drug's intended trail to L.A. and found a staggering 1.2 million tablets, worth $30 million. And in an elaborate sting last summer, customs agents and the Drug Enforcement Administration helped dismantle a far-flung ecstasy empire run by a Canadian based in Amsterdam who allegedly claimed he could sell 100,000 hits of ecstasy in Miami - in 48 hours. The mastermind was using pious looking Hasidic Jews as couriers. (Israeli organized crime dominates the global trade, according to the U.S. government.)The busts have had little effect. Nationwide, customs officers have already seized more ecstasy this fiscal year (nearly 3.3 million hits) than in all of last year; in 1997, they seized just 400,000 hits. In a 1998 survey, 8% of high school seniors said they had tried e, up from 5.8% the year before. In New York City, according to another survey, 1 in 4 adolescents has tried ecstasy. So much e is coming into the U.S. that the Customs Service has created a special ecstasy command center and is training 13 more dogs to sniff out the drug.But it took a seizure in Phoenix two weeks ago to generate e's first big press coverage in years.That bust snared Salvatore Gravano, the notorious Mob hit man turned government snitch.Like the Hasidim, Gravano is a rather curious newcomer to the ecstasy culture.You wouldn't think someone nicknamed "Sammy the Bull" would be peddling the so-called hug drug. But simple reasons lie behind the drug's popularity among sellers and users.E is cheap to make, easy to distribute and consume--no dirty syringes or passe coke spoons needed, thanks--and it has a reputation for being fun. E's euphoria may be chemically manufactured, but it feels no less real to users.It's called the hug drug because it engenders gooey, rather gauche expressions of empathy from users. Last week students at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff reminisced about melting into "cuddle puddles," groups of students who massage and embrace on the dance floor. The skin feels tremblingly alive when caressed. "Feathers, toys, lotions, anything," gurgles "Katrina," 23, a student at N.A.U. "A guy touching your skin with a cold drink. It's delicious."Though often cut with other drugs, ecstasy pills are at least intended to be a substance called MDMA (and known only to chemists as methylenedioxymethamphetamine). MDMA is pharmacologically related to amphetamine and mescaline, but it doesn't produce the nervy, wired feeling that typically accompanies speed or the confusion of a purer psychedelic like LSD. It doesn't generate addictive cravings. Treatment admissions for drugs of its type still account for less than 1% of the total, according to Dr. Blanche Frank of the New York State office of alcohol and substance abuse.In fact, e's popularity is largely due to its lack of noticeable downsides. It's possible to overdose on ecstasy, but even police agree that the drug isn't like heroin or crack in terms of short-term dangers. Most problems are attributable to dehydration among novices who don't drink water.However, another club drug, GHB - which is also known as "Liquid X" though it's chemically unrelated to ecstasy - can easily cause coma and death. MDMA was first synthesized in 1912, but the big experiments with it didn't begin until the 1970s, when a group of psychologists rediscovered it as a tool for therapy.By the early '80s, the drug - still perfectly legal - was sold openly in bars and clubs.But at the time a scientific debate had begun - and continues today about whether MDMA can cause long-term brain damage. In 1985, on the basis of preliminary data about its harmfulness, the DEA used its discretionary power to outlaw MDMA. A group of therapists sued, but after a three-year court battle, the DEA won the right to ban the drug permanently.So why is it upon us again?Partly because the debate about MDMA's harmfulness has never been resolved. Johns Hopkins neurologist George Ricaurte has concluded in several animal studies and one human study that MDMA can damage a particular group of the brain's nerve cells. But he wants more research. Last week Ricaurte said his work has never shown that the damage to the affected cells has any visible effect on "the vast majority of people who have experimented with MDMA." The debate has now found its way onto the Web, where the old therapist crowd behind MDMA has become active. The sites are populated mostly by young users, however, kids who blindly praise the drug ("Sammy the Bull rules," wrote one last week). But the most important reason for e's quick and recent spread into places like Denver and Sacramento is that professional criminals have almost completely assumed control of its trade. The life of a typical tablet found in the U.S. begins somewhere along the Dutch-Belgian border, a quiet region of pig farmers. The setting is rural but not far from the Brussels airport. Manufacturers convert abandoned barns or garden sheds into e factories, which can be filthy. "They've been mixing chemicals in dirty cans I wouldn't even use for garbage," says Charles De Winter, director of the drug section of Belgium's national police force. These mills aren't mom-and-pop setups, at least not anymore. "We're seeing more and more hardened criminals," says Cees van Doorn, a Dutch organized-crime specialist. They are drawn by the profits. After setup the marginal cost of each pill is maybe 10 cents . It's sold in New York City clubs for $30,U.S. Customs commissioner Raymond Kelly says professional criminals in this country have brought better management and marketing to the ecstasy trade.Mobsters have the distribution networks to move millions of pills. And most pills now come with a catchy brand name-like the "Candy Canes" taken in Flagstaff (red and white capsules) or tablets stamped with corporate logos.Users can ask dealers for a good brand by name. Last year's "Mitsubishis," for instance, were hugely popular because they seemed to have an extra kick of speed.This winter's "AOLS," however, were duds. What is the future of ecstasy?Officials in the Low Countries are cracking down on e factories but warn that production is cropping up in central Europe and Spain. For good reason: Americans are in love with ecstasy. "New York used to be a meat and-potatoes drug town - heroin, coke and pot," says John Silbering, a former narcotics prosecutor who works for the Tunnel, a big New York City nightclub. "Today we no longer find coke or heroin among the young. It's always ecstasy."SAMPLE LETTER (sent)To the Editors of Time Magazine: In "It's all the Rave" (March 13 issue) John Cloud addressed the recent upsurge of MDMA (ecstasy) use in the US. Ecstasy was banned in the North America and in Europe in the mid-80s, just at around the time that the rave movement started in Britain. The rave/ecstasy rage then spilled over to continental Europe where it had its heyday in the early 1990s. That the US and Canada now experience the same mania with ten years delay, calls into question the effectiveness of criminalizing ecstasy, as the phenomenon spread regardless and independently of the almost simultaneous worldwide ban of the drug. The article notes that criminal organizations attracted by the illicit drug trade have assumed control of the distribution and marketing of ecstasy. As a consequence and to no surprise, teenagers nowadays can generally obtain ecstasy and other illegal drugs easier than alcohol. This means that criminalization is not only vain but rather achieves the exact opposite of protecting young people from the exposure to drugs. When alcohol prohibition ended in 1933, this did not create a nation of deranged alcoholics, but it helped to tear down crime syndicates and to establish effective controls such as age limits on alcohol sales. It is in society's interest that young people get not exposed to drugs of uncontrolled origin and quality. The popular wisdom of combining law enforcement with drug treatment will hardly help to achieve this. For law enforcement only tends to aggravate problems and treatment is both fruitless and ethically questionable where it is not requested by the drug user.Eric ErnstIMPORTANT: Always include your address and telephone number: NOTE: Time Magazine has a circulation of more than 4 MILLION READERS. A 5 inch letter published in this magazine is equivalent to buying an ad on behalf of drug policy reform worth MORE THAN $12,000!! Please note: If you choose to use this letter as a model please modify it at least somewhat so that the paper does not receive numerous copies of the same letter and so that the original author receives credit for his/her work.TO SUBSCRIBE, DONATE, VOLUNTEER TO HELP, OR UPDATE YOUR EMAIL SEE: TO UNSUBSCRIBE SEE: ADDITIONAL INFO to help you in your letter writing efforts: 3 Tips for Letter Writers: Letter Writers Style Guide: Prepared by Eric ErnstFocus Alert SpecialistRelated Articles on GHB: Drug Legislation Alone Won't Stop Date Rape House Votes to Put GHB On List of Illegal Drugs Drug Dangers Bill Makes GHB A Controlled Substance CannabisNews MapInc. & Drug Sense Articles & Archives: 
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Comment #2 posted by Tom on March 12, 2000 at 12:10:16 PT
Brain Damage
I can just imagine our youth thinking: Well, the government lied all these years about the dangers of marijuana use, so they're probably lying about all the other drugs, too. Unfortunately other drugs CAN be extremely dangerous. Parents, be straight with your kids and tell them marijuana is not dangerous when used properly (don't mix it with alcohol, and don't abuse it), but OTHER DRUGS CAN BE VERY DANGEROUS!!!The U.S. is supposed to be the land of the free; isn't it interesting that many other countries have stopped locking up people for smoking a joint or carrying a small quantity of marijuana.  
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on March 12, 2000 at 11:15:50 PT
Another Test Page
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